The loss of a loved one is always a traumatic event. However, the impact can be amplified when the loss occurs due to someone else’s negligence.
In Washington, survivors may be entitled to compensation for the death of a loved one due to the negligence of an individual, business, or other entity. This legal action is known as a wrongful death claim.
Since 1972, Fuller & Fuller, Attorneys PLLC, has been serving individuals and families who have suffered immense losses due to the wrongdoing of others. The firm is led by Marya Fuller, a specialist in accident and injury law. If you have lost a loved one and suspect someone else is at fault, our wrongful death lawyers can review your case and pursue the compensation you and your family deserve.
What Constitutes a Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death is a type of claim brought under personal injury law. Instead of an injured victim bringing a claim for damages they have sustained as a result of another party’s negligence, compensation is sought on behalf of the survivors.
“When the death of a person is caused by the wrongful act, neglect, or default of another person, his or her personal representative may maintain an action against the person causing the death for the economic and noneconomic damages sustained by the beneficiaries … as a result of the decedent’s death, in such amounts as determined by a trier of fact to be just under all the circumstances of the case.”
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?
The statute above includes a key provision when pursuing a claim for wrongful death. By law, wrongful death actions must be brought for the benefit of surviving family members, including:
- Domestic partners
- Children and stepchildren
- Or, if none of the above apply:
Although compensation is awarded to these parties in the event of a favorable result, only the personal representative of the deceased can bring a wrongful death claim. If the decedent (the legal term for a deceased individual) had a Last Will and Testament, the Will should specify who the personal representative is, and the probate court will appoint that individual. If the victim died without a Will, the court will appoint a personal representative.
Often, the personal representative is also a family member who may be entitled to damages in the wrongful death claim. However, there is no legal requirement for the personal representative to be a relative of the decedent.
What Are Examples of Wrongful Death Claims?
Virtually any kind of act that gives rise to a personal injury claim can also be grounds for a wrongful death claim if the victim is killed. Common examples include:
- Car Accidents
- Truck Accidents
- Motorcycle Accidents
- Pedestrian Accidents
- Bicycle Accidents
- Slip and Fall Accidents
- And More
What Damages Can Be Recovered for Wrongful Death?
Surviving family members may be entitled to compensation for their economic and non-economic losses stemming from the wrongful death of a loved one. Potential damages in your wrongful death claim may include:
- The cost of funeral services and burial or cremation
- Loss of income and economic support
- Loss of inheritance
- Loss of companionship
- Medical expenses from prior to the decedent’s death
- Loss of support and services
- Loss of consortium (payable to a surviving spouse or domestic partner)
- Loss of parental guidance (payable to surviving children or stepchildren)
A claim can also be brought for recovery of economic losses (such as medical bills, funeral and burial expenses, etc.) as well as the pain and suffering endured by the deceased prior to death. This is known as a survival action.
Who Is Liable for Wrongful Death?
The liable party or parties in your wrongful death claim will depend on the specific circumstances of the accident or injury that led to your loved one’s passing. A knowledgeable wrongful death lawyer will investigate thoroughly to identify all of the parties in your claim.
You may be able to bring a wrongful death claim against one or more of the following:
- The careless driver of a motor vehicle
- The driver’s employer, if he or she is driving for work; this is commonly an issue in truck accident claims and other cases involving commercial drivers
- The owner or occupant of a dangerous property
- An establishment that serves alcohol to someone who is underage or obviously intoxicated – a common consideration in drunk driving accident claims
- The manufacturer of a defective or dangerous product, such as a faulty automobile component
- A government entity
- And other entities
Claims are subject to special rules and strict time limits. It is important to seek legal guidance as soon as possible to avoid missing deadlines.
When Should I Expect a Wrongful Death Settlement?
While it is true that the majority of injury claims (including those involving wrongful death) settle before going to trial, there is no guarantee that you will receive a fair settlement offer. The majority of defendants in wrongful death claims are represented by insurance companies that will do everything they can to limit what you are paid.
One of the most important things to look for in a wrongful death lawyer is a commitment to achieving the best result in your case. This may involve negotiating a favorable settlement on your behalf, or it could involve taking the case to trial.
Many different factors can influence whether your wrongful death claim will settle and for how much. You need to have confidence that your attorney will represent your best interests throughout the duration of your claim and advise you effectively if a settlement offer is on the table.
Families who lose a loved one should be able to focus on their grief and healing in the wake of tragedy. They should not have to handle the complexities of a legal matter on their own.
Attorney Marya Fuller is a specialist in accident and injury law, including claims of wrongful death. She leads the team at Fuller & Fuller, Attorneys PLLC, in seeking fair compensation on behalf of those who have lost relatives as a result of others’ negligence.
Please call (800) 570-4878 today for a free initial consultation. Our wrongful death lawyers serve clients in Olympia, Tacoma, and surrounding counties and other communities of Washington state.
Please note that the author believes that the above information was accurate at the time that it was written. The legislature or courts, however, may change the applicable law at any time.